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EC's big stick getting bigger

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With unnamed sources once again leaking the European Commission is "close" to following through and actually fining Microsoft millions of dollars for breaching antitrust laws, it comes as a surprise to learn Microsoft could actually be getting off light.

The Commission is increasing its fines to 30 per cent of total annual turn over for every year a company broke the law, adding that some offenders will end up paying even more as this number will serve as an "entry level" fine. The Commission has until now creamed 10 per cent from companies' revenues for each year of the offense.

Companies that continue to break the law will also pay more. The EC is increasing these fines by up to 100 per cent, compared to today's 50 per cent.

Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes, explaining the increase said in a blunt statement that indicated how she really felt about being harried and castigated in public by Microsoft's blunderbuss-like legal team: "Don't break the antitrust rules: if you do, stop it as quickly as possible. Once you've stopped, don't do it again... if companies do not pay attention... they will pay a very high price."

Microsoft is currently in line to pay the 10 per cent number, totaling $2.51m a day backdated to December 15 for failing to obey a March 2004 ruling ordering it to share Windows communications protocols with rivals, and also to deliver a version of Windows without Media player included.

It is unclear whether Microsoft would qualify for the newer fines, but all signs indicate this will not be the case, as the fines will apply to law breakers caught after introduction during the next two months. A Commission spokeswoman told The Register a decision to impose Microsoft's fine would be taken "before the end of July."®

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